CB32. SINGAPORE. TIMELINE 1900 TO THE PRESENT

28 Jul CB32. SINGAPORE. TIMELINE 1900 TO THE PRESENT

Singapore has 5.8 million people. Its politicians receive the highest remuneration in the world – so that first, the best people would serve in running the country; and second, there would be little or no corruption in government. The crime rate in Singapore is extremely low compared to other developed nations – it is ranked as the safest city in the world in regard to digital, personal and infrastructure security. Singapore has capital punishment – more die per capita in this nation than anywhere else – this is probably tied to its low crime rate. No other nation turned itself from third world to first in such a short time – in one generation. The nation’s father is Lee Kuan Yew, a lawyer turned politician in the 1950s. He was a third generation Hakka Chinese, born in Singapore in 1923. In 1965, Lee Kuan Yew cried and thought that Singapore would fail economically when it became independent from Malaysia, as there is no hinterland in Singapore – not enough land for farming and no minerals. But from sheer hard work and implementing the best governing system it can think of, Singapore became a very successful nation economically. Choosing English over Malay or Chinese as its main language helped it along to become a first world nation. Making friends with powerful nations of Britain, USA and China returned dividends. With a top man in Lee Kuan Yew, who was very clever (he had first class honours degree in law from Cambridge University) and who had a cherished love for his country, in 50 years, Singapore turned itself into a rich country. People in it have the highest rate of owning their own home. Its airport has been the best in the world for many years. Temasek and GIC (both Singaporean government investment corporations) have wealth and investments placed in many overseas countries, so its future is made more secure (not everything in one basket). The government is authoritarian. The public is better off concentrating in making money and leaving politics to the People’s Action Party – the main political party who holds almost all the seats in the parliament, save 1 to 5 out of more than 80 for the opposition parties. Women with children often have foreign worker maids to help raise their kids, so they can go to work. Singapore’s weather is punishing – summer everyday – so to keep comfortable, cool air conditioner is turned on full time, such that Singapore is known as the Airconditioned Country. Lee Kuan Yew called the air conditioner the best invention ever! China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping consulted Singapore’s prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in the late 1970s on governing matters. Deng then sent 22,000 Chinese to Singapore to study its techniques to become economically wealthy. Between 1980 and 2010 (30 years), China can be said to have followed Singapore on how to become a wealthy nation. Today, there are similarities between the governments of Singapore and the Chinese ‘Culture’ Party (CCP) of China. Both are Confusion philosophy based, where respect shown to the elders (including the government of the day) is very important.

  1. In about 2,000 words, I will describe major events that affected Singapore from 1900 to the present.
  2. 1906 – The Nanyang (the ethnic Chinese migrant population in Southeast Asia numbering 30 to 50 million) branch of Tongmenghui (the Chinese revolutionary group put together by Sun Yat-sen in opposition to the Qing government in China) was set up in Singapore.
  3. 1911 – The population of Singapore grows to 250,000 and the census records 48 races on the island, speaking 54 ­languages.
  4. 1923 – The British starts constructing in Singapore the main British naval base in East Asia. It becomes the greatest naval base of the British empire east of the Suez Canal.
  5. 1924 – Singapore-Johor Causeway officially opens.
  6. 1937 – Haw Par Villa or Tiger Balm Gardens is built by Burma / Myanmar-born businessman Aw Boon Haw for his brother, Aw Boon Par. The park was named after the Tiger Balm medical ‘cure all’ ointment that the siblings’ father had created.
  7. 1939 – Britain completes building the huge naval base dubbed ‘Fortress Singapore’ for around US$500 million, boasting the world’s largest dry dock with enough fuel to run the British Navy for months.
  8. 1941 – World War Two. Japan air raids Singapore; and invades Malaya. The British battleship Prince of Wales and battlecruiser Repulse are sunk by Japanese bombers off the east coast of Malaya. The Overseas Chinese Mobilization Council is set up in Singapore, led by Tan Kah Kee (a Hokkien Chinese rubber tycoon, and philanthropist).
  9. 1942 – Malaya falls to the Japanese. Causeway between Johore in Malaya and Singapore is blown up by the British to delay Japan’s advancement to Singapore. The Japanese cross the Strait of Johor by inflatable boats and landed in Singapore. British Lt. Gen. Sir Arthur Percival and 130,000 Empire troops surrendered to the Japanese, although in reality the British has more troop numbers than the Japanese. It was the largest surrender in British history. Japan renames Singapore Syonan-To (Light of the South). General Tomoyuki Yamashita earned the name “Tiger of Malaya” for his masterful capture of Singapore and the whole Malay Peninsula from the British. 
  10. 1942 – The Japanese military police the Kempeitai kills an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 of the Chinese in Singapore and Malaya. They pretty much left the Malays alone.
  11. 1943 – Operation Jaywick. Seven Japanese ships are bombed by the British at Clifford Pier, Singapore. In response, the Japanese launched a fierce crackdown on anti-Japanese elements and Allied prisoners-of-war in Singapore.
  12. 1944 – Lim Bo Seng, a prominent local Chinese businessman (and resistance fighter), is captured by the Japanese, and dies after 3 months of torture.
  13. 1945 – Japan surrenders, and there is looting for nearly a month when the British do not return immediately. The British finally return to Singapore. 
  14. 1946 – The Straits Settlements (of Singapore, Malacca and Penang) is dissolved, and Singapore becomes a separate crown colony.
  15. 1948 – Malayan Communist Party’s uprising against British imperialism. Rubber plantations and tin mines in Malaya were destroyed by the communists, and the British declared a State of Emergency over Singapore and Malaya (for 12 years to 1960).
  16. 1948 – Singapore’s first “limited elections” are held. The British allowed limited elections to the Legislative Council. 
  17. 1949 – The University of Malaya is formed following the merger of Raffles College and King Edward Medical College.
  18. 1954 – Lawyer Lee Kuan Yew founded the People’s Action Party (PAP). He won his first parliamentary seat a year later.
  19. 1955 – Second “limited elections” (limited self-government) are held. The Labour Front wins the most seats and David Marshall (a Jew born in Singapore) becomes the first Chief Minister of Singapore.
  20. 1955 – Singapore’s government started the Central Provident Fund, a compulsory comprehensive social security savings plan. It required contributions from both employees and employers.
  21. 1955 – Kallang Airport ceased operation and Paya Lebar Airport started operation.
  22. 1956 – Singapore’s Chief Minister, David Marshall, appeals to the United Kingdom for full self-government, but resigns when he fails. Lim Yew Hock takes over as Chief Minister.
  23. 1959 – Lim Yew Hock successfully gains full self-government for Singapore. Third “limited elections” (with first general elections for a Legislative Assembly) are held. The People’s Action Party wins 43 of 51 seats, and Lee Kuan Yew becomes the first Prime Minister.
  24. 1960 – The Housing and Development Board is set up.
  25. 1961 – Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Prime Minister of Malaya, proposes a merger between Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah (becoming Malaysia).
  26. 1963 – Malaysia is formed. Indonesia, unhappy that Sarawak and Sabah have become part of Malaysia, carries out its ‘konfrontasi’ campaign.
  27. 1964 – Singapore Race Riots. Civil disturbances between the Malays and the Chinese in Singapore (23 people died and 454 became injured). This has implications on the Federation of Malaysia. Politically, the Malays were uncomfortable with the large Chinese population.
  28. 1965 – Indonesian saboteurs carry out the bombing in Singapore killing 3 people.
  29. 1965 – The Malaysian Parliament votes to expel Singapore from the Federation. Singapore becomes independent after separating from Malaysia. Lee Kuan Yew cried during a press conference – worried about Singapore’s future.
  30. 1965 – Singapore is admitted into the United Nations.
  31. 1967 – The National Service bill is passed in the parliament.
  32. 1967 – Singapore joins the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as one of the founding members.
  33. 1968 – The People’s Action Party wins all 58 seats in the General Election.
  34. 1969 – Singapore Race Riots. Riots between the Malays and the Chinese in Singapore broke out after growing tension of the ‘13 May 1969 Malay vs Chinese riot’ in Malaysia after their elections (where more than 200 died) spilled over to Singapore, where 4 died and 80 became injured.
  35. 1971 – The last British military forces withdraws from Singapore.
  36. 1972 – The People’s Action Party wins all 65 seats in the General Election.
  37. 1974 – Temasek was founded to hold Singapore’s investments in various businesses. In 2004 it employed 170,000 people and controlled a fifth of the local stock market.
  38. 1975 – Singapore becomes world’s third-busiest port and world’s third-largest oil refiner, and a huge oil-storage centre.
  39. 1976 – The People’s Action Party wins all 69 seats in the General Election.
  40. 1979 – Singapore becomes the world’s second busiest port in terms of shipping tonnage.
  41. 1980 – The People’s Action Party wins all 75 seats in the General Election.
  42. 1981 – Paya Lebar Airport ceased operation and Changi Airport started operation.
  43. 1981 – Workers’ Party’ Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam is elected into Parliament, breaking a 16 years People’s Action Party monopoly of the House.
  44. 1981 – The Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) was founded to run the nation’s foreign-exchange reserves. By 2008 it had well over US$100 billion in assets.
  45. 1983 – Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew ended the “stop at two” policy, initiated in the 1960s, and started promoting larger families. Singapore’s natural population is falling.
  46. 1984 – The People’s Action Party wins the General Election while two members of the opposition parties are elected as members of parliament. Three People’s Action Party female members of Parliaments are elected, ending a 16 year absence of female representation in Parliament.
  47. 1986 – Motorola opened shop in Singapore.
  48. 1987 – The US$5 billion Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train system opens.
  49. 1988 – The People’s Action Party wins the General Election and group representation constituencies (GRCs) are introduced.
  50. 1990 – Goh Chok Tong becomes the second Prime Minister of Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew stands down after 31 years – continues to exert significant influence as Senior Minister.
  51. 1990 – USA and Singapore signed a memorandum that gave American military forces access to facilities at Paya Lebar Airport and Sembawang naval port.
  52. 1991 – Singapore banned chewing gum because it messed up the streets and subway doors.
  53. 1995 – Nick Leeson’s disastrous dealings on Singapore stock exchange led to collapse of Britain’s oldest merchant bank, Barings. Leeson speculated in derivatives that resulted in losses exceeding US$800 million. He is convicted in Singapore and sentenced to 6.5 years in jail.
  54. 1994 – Caning of an American teenager Michael Fay for vandalising cars grabs world headlines. The sentence was reduced from six lashes to four in response to an appeal by President Clinton, who considered the punishment too harsh.
  55. 1996 – The government passed a Maintenance of Parents Law. Parents over 60 can sue their children for lack of maintenance, in the form of monthly allowances or a lump-sum payment.
  56. 1997 – The People’s Action Party led by Goh Chok Tong wins 81 out of 83 seats in the General Election.
  57. 1997 – More than 85% of the country’s 3 million live in government-built (HDB) apartments.
  58. 1997 – In Indonesia fires originally set by developers to clear forest for palm plantations in Borneo and Sumatra ran out of control and darkened skies across much of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.
  59. 1998 – USA and Singapore announced an agreement for USA ships to use a planned $35 million naval base beginning in 2000.
  60. 1998 – “The Singapore Story”, the first volume of Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs is published.
  61. 1999 – Singapore launched Channel NewsAsia. The state-owned firm was intended to challenge Western dominance of the air waves.
  62. 2000 – Speaker’s Corner is launched at Hong Lim Park.
  63. 2000 – “From Third World to First, The Singapore Story 1965-2000” the second volume of Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs is published.
  64. 2001 – Unprecedented anti-government rally occurred; the first legal demonstration outside election campaign. Hundreds gather to support veteran opposition leader Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam who faces bankruptcy and consequent expulsion from parliament. He was stripped of his seat in parliament when he was declared bankrupt after failing to pay $13,535 monthly instalments of libel suit damages owed to People’s Action Party’s leaders.
  65. 2001 – The People’s Action Party wins 82 out of 84 seats in the General Election.
  66. 2003 – Outbreak of pneumonia-like Sars (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus; Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong says outbreak is the worst crisis the country has faced.
  67. 2003 – In Singapore, Vignes Mourthi (23), found guilty of drug trafficking, after his arrest in September 2001 for smuggling 27 grams (0.98 ounces) of heroin, and Moorthi Angappan who is convicted of helping him, were both hanged. Between 1999 and 2003, 88 people have been hanged, mostly for drug offenses. The government says the death penalty effectively deters drug addiction.
  68. 2003 – Singapore signed a free trade agreement with USA. The 1991 ban on chewing gum is lifted soon after, along with the ban on bar-top dancing.
  69. 2004 – Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Kuan Yew’s elder son, becomes Singapore’s third Prime Minister. Lee Kuan Yew becomes Minister Mentor.
  70. 2004 – Amnesty International said more than 400 prisoners have been hanged since 1991 in Singapore, mostly for drug offenses.
  71. 2005 – Government approves a controversial plan to legalise casino gambling, paving way for construction of 2 multi-billion dollar casino resorts.
  72. 2005 – Singapore executed 25-year-old Australian Nguyen Tuong Van for drug trafficking. Australia’s prime minister John Howard protested the sentence, saying it would damage ties.
  73. 2006 – The People’s Action Party, led by Lee Hsien Loong, wins 82 out of 84 seats in the General Election. The party wins 66.6% of the total votes.
  74. 2006 – Singapore banned the Far Eastern Economic Review magazine after it failed to comply with media regulations. The Review, published by Dow Jones & Co Inc., was being sued by Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, Singapore’s founding PM Lee Kuan Yew, over an article about opposition politician Chee Soon Juan.
  75. 2010 – British author Alan Shadrake (76) was convicted of contempt after publishing a book questioning executions in the city-state. He was sentenced to 6 weeks in prison and to pay a fine of US$15,400. He eventually spent 5 weeks in Singapore’s Changi Prison, and was deported to London, hours after being released.
  76. 2010 – Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands open. They each have a casino.
  77. 2010 – An annual report by Transparency International marked that Singapore, Denmark and New Zealand tied as the world’s least corrupt nations. USA declined to 22nd from 19th. Somalia is marked as the most corrupt country in the world, followed by Afghanistan, Myanmar and Iraq.
  78. 2011 – The People’s Action Party loses its grip on Aljunied Group Representation Constituency (GRC) to the Workers’ Party in the General Election. This is the first time an opposition party has captured a GRC since the inception of this scheme in 1988. The People’s Action Party wins 81 out of 87 seats in parliament. The party wins 60.14% of the total votes – the lowest ever. Singapore founding father, Lee Kuan Yew resigns from the Cabinet, ceding leadership to the younger generation.
  79. 2012 – Singapore experiences its first strike since the 1980s. Chinese bus drivers walk out complaining their pay is lower than local Singaporean or Malaysian drivers.
  80. 2012 – A Gallup poll said the people least likely to report positive emotions lived in Singapore. It said 7 of the world’s 10 countries with the most upbeat or positive attitudes are in Latin America with Panama and Paraguay at the top.
  81. 2012 – Singapore amended its laws on the death penalty, making it no longer mandatory for those convicted of drug trafficking or murder to receive death sentences.
  82. 2013 – Haze in Singapore reaches 401 PSI, the worst in Singaporean history. Singapore urged people to remain indoors amid unprecedented levels of air pollution as a smoky haze wrought by forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia. Nearby Malaysia closed 200 schools and banned open burning in some areas.
  83. 2013 – Demonstrators hold an unusually large rally to protest against government plans to boost the population, mostly with foreign workers.
  84. 2013 – The Little India Riot. A riot involving some 400 foreign workers breaks in Little India, Singapore following the death of an Indian migrant worker knocked down by a bus. The rampage left 39 police and civil defence staff injured, and 25 vehicles – including 16 police cars – damaged or torched. It is the first rioting in Singapore in more than 30 years. Singapore filed charges against 24 Indian nationals who allegedly took part in the riot, as officials and activists warned against inciting racial hatred over the incident.
  85. 2013 – Changi Airport is named the world’s best airport.
  86. 2015 – First Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew passes away. Singapore enters a one-week mourning period. Tens of thousands of people line the streets to attend his funeral procession.
  87. 2015 – Singapore threw a big party for its 50th anniversary of independence and unrivaled economic success.
  88. 2015 – The People’s Action Party wins a snap election.
  89. 2015 – A Singapore court sentences a Filipino nurse to 4 months in prison for posting inflammatory comments about the city state on Facebook.
  90. 2015 – The government reduces the number of banned publications from 250 to 17 to reflect “changes in society”.
  91. 2015 – The OECD ranked Singapore as No. 1 in the world for providing its citizens with the best comprehensive education. Asia took the five top spots and USA was ranked No. 28.
  92. 2015 – A Singapore court sentenced Kong Hee, the founder and senior pastor of City Harvest Church, to 8 years in jail for misappropriating more than S$35 million in donations to support his wife’s singing career. Other sentences for 5 church leaders ranged from 21 months to 6 years.
  93. 2015 – Singapore’s population stood at 5.5 million. Every day some 50,000 Malaysians commuted to work across a causeway from Johor Bahru, the capital of Malaysia’s Johor state.
  94. 2016 – Singapore convicted a banker who had handled some of Malaysia’s 1MDB money of forgery and failing to report suspicious transactions. He was sentenced to 18 weeks in jail.
  95. 2017 – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his 2 younger siblings engage in a public row over the will of their late father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. In Singapore around 400 protesters gathered at Speakers’ Corner calling for an independent inquiry into whether prime minister Lee Hsien Loong abused his power in a battle with his siblings over what to do with their late father’s house.
  96. 2019 – Jewel Changi Airport featuring the world’s tallest indoor waterfall opens.
  97. 2020 – (to 2021) COVID-19 pandemic caused more than 30 deaths in Singapore.
  98. 2021 – Singapore has 5.8 million people.
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